Attempts to Persuade Hareidi Party Not to Join Gov´t

The former Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, the Rishon LeTzion Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, paid a visit last night to Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, a top spiritual leader of Ashkenazi hareidi Jewry.

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, | updated: 13:08

Rabbi Eliyahu, one of the top rabbis in the religious-Zionist sector, attempted to persuade Rabbi Elyashiv not to permit his representatives in the Knesset – most of the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party – to join the Sharon government. Rabbi Eliyahu explained the short-range and long-range security dangers of the retreat, explained why he feels it is forbidden to uproot Jewish towns in the Land of Israel, and warned of the civil strife that could result.

Over the past few days, women from Gush Katif have met with the wives of the UTJ Knesset Members for the same purpose. The women explained that UTJ's joining the coalition government will facilitate the uprooting from their homes of the Jews of Gush Katif and northern Shomron.

As of this morning, however, it appears that UTJ is, in fact, headed for the coalition. This is the result of the Likud's consent for MK Yaakov Litzman to head the Knesset Finance Committee. In addition, MK Moshe Gafni will be appointed a Minister in the Prime Minister's Burea for Religious Affairs. His job will be to recoup what is left of the now-defunct Religious Affairs Ministry, and to "offset the damages caused to religious affairs in Israel by [the previous government]." So said MK Yisrael Eichler of UTJ to Arutz-7 last night. Rabbi Elyashiv has given strict instructions not to sign the coalition agreement unless Gafni's authorities are clearly formulated.

UTJ voted in the past against the disengagement plan in the Knesset, but explained at the time that its opposition was more tactical than substantial. In any event, Prime Minister Sharon is not demanding that UTJ actively support the disengagement, because the party is not asking for ministerial representation in the Cabinet.

This is not the case with the Shas Party, however, with which coalition negotiations are currently mired. Shas demands both Cabinet ministers and the freedom to vote as it wishes regarding the disengagement - a contradiction, from Sharon's point of view. Shas also wants economic benefits for the underprivileged.

UTJ had also demanded the restoration of child allowance payments, at least in part, but the Likud negotiators said that this was impossible. They said that only if Shas joins the coalition would there be "something to talk about" regarding this issue.